Taking Charge of Vaginal Discharge
What’s Normal and What to Lookout for - MP Edition 010
Vaginal discharge. It’s one of those taboo things that women don’t feel completely comfortable talking about. But the fact of the matter is that vaginal discharge happens to most women during their reproductive years (from your first period to menopause) and is nothing to be embarrassed about. It’s either perfectly normal or an indicator of what’s going on with your body.
What is vaginal discharge?
Ok, first of all - vaginal discharge is absolutely normal. Your vagina is a magical - it’s self-cleaning and self-sustaining. But when it cleans, your vagina has to do something with the bad stuff. So the glands inside your vagina produce a mucus-like fluid that carries out the unwanted things like bacteria and dead cells (blegh) to keep your vagina clean and free from infection.
How much discharge is normal?
The amount of discharge is different for everyone. It also depends on where you are in your menstrual cycle. Some reasons for heavier discharge include pregnancy, sexually activity, or if you're using birth control.
What does discharge look like?
Just as with the amount, the color and consistency of vaginal discharge vary for each person. It can be white or clear, thick or watery, completely odorless or have a slight smell. Normal vaginal discharge looks a bit like mucus (yes, boogers). It’s white or light grey, typically thicker and can sometimes be slippery.
What your discharge means
Below is a quick guide on typical discharges and what they mean. While discharge is healthy in most cases, if there’s an inexplicable change in odor or color, abnormal discharge persists, or you feel that it’s a little off, consult your doctor as it can mean something else is going on.
Clear to white, wet, and slippery discharge means you’re likely ovulating. It’s your body’s way of helping the reproductive process. This type of discharge helps sperm slide in and fertilize an egg.
Milky-white, cottage cheese-esque, itchy discharge may indicate a yeast infection.
Grey or has a fishy smell may also mean a yeast infection like bacterial vaginosis (BV).
Green or yellow discharge with a bad odor could be the first signs of STIs like gonorrhea, trichomoniasis, and chlamydia - all of which may lead to complications if left alone.
Red discharge may be a sign of an infection or potentially even cancer if there are other symptoms present.
Pink, red, or brown discharge is probably something called breakthrough bleeding, which can happen in the first few months after you start birth control. It can also happen around your period. But the good thing is that it's typically totally normal and is simply your body adjusting to the new hormones.
How to get rid of smelly discharge?
Alas, you can't prevent vaginal discharge. But typically, healthy discharge isn’t too big of an issue. The main thing is to maintain a regular feminine hygiene routine and avoid products with heavy fragrances or lots of chemicals as it can throw off the delicate balance in your vagina, not only causing irregular discharge but also infections and abnormal smells. If you’d like, you can wear panty liners to help with heavy or excessive discharge.
When it’s time to see a doctor
Vaginal discharge itself is totally normal, but if you think it might be something more, don’t wait on it. Go see your doctor because abnormal discharge may be indicators of more serious issues such as cervical infection or cancer. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.